Yesterday, the MTA released the mitigation plan for the 15-month long closure of the L Train, set to start in April 2019, to mixed reactions.
The shutdown plan, developed after some 40 public meetings, includes additional subway service and capacity; more bike lanes and an increase in Citi Bike inventory; increased bus service along with vehicle restrictions on 14th Street and the Williamsburg Bridge; “major changes” to facilitate bus and bike travel on Grand Street in Brooklyn; and a new ferry route that will connect the Stuyvesant Cove in Manhattan with North 6th Street in Brooklyn.
City Council member Stephen Levin, one of the elected officials who last week complained that the MTA had not been sufficiently forthcoming about the plan, said he felt it was a good beginning. “It came a little late but nonetheless a good foundation to start,” he said in a telephone interview. Levin added that he was glad the MTA had agreed to monthly meetings starting in January and that he hoped the plan would be expanded to address public comments.
Today I questioned the DOT/MTA about L train closure mitigation plans, expressing concern about the consequences of closing 14th St. to cars; not on drivers, but on residents of side streets who already endure snarled traffic, blocked crosswalks, etc. https://t.co/ITpLoRo1I8
— Corey Johnson (@CoreyinNYC) December 14, 2017
The Canarsie Tunnel, which connects First Avenue in Manhattan with Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn was flooded with saltwater during Hurricane Sandy, damaging the power infrastructure and corroding the cabling. While there have been minor and emergency repairs performed on the tunnel, the MTA says a complete overhaul is necessary to bring the L line back to a state of good repair.
The MTA says it expects the majority of commuters needing to cross the East River will take other subway lines, namely the G, J, M or Z lines. To make up for the increased demand, there will be increased service on those lines along with longer trains on the G and C lines.
With L Train shutdown, suddenly @ST_PCV_Tenants are in the middle of the action. And 8,000 PCV/ST residents use the L every day — need to ensure adequate bus service to accommodate this demand. pic.twitter.com/vP34smyl8j
— Dan Garodnick (@DanGarodnick) December 14, 2017
The MTA estimates that the number of people riding bikes on the Williamsburg Bridge will double during the shutdown. To ease the increased bike traffic, the city plans to install several new cycle paths, including a two-way protected lane on 13th Street. Also, the city will work to increase inventory of Citi Bikes.
During rush hour, vehicles on the Williamsburg Bridge will be restricted to those carrying three or more people. There will be even more severe vehicle restrictions on 14th Street, the core of which (Third to Ninth Avenues eastbound and Third to Eighth Avenues westbound) will serve as an exclusive “busway” during rush hour. The street will also get more bus lanes and Select Bus Service.
City Council member Rafael Espinal, one of the elected officials who have been pushing for an increase in electric buses, expressed disappointment that the plan will use diesel buses. He said the city should have waited to gather data from a pilot program to see if electric buses would have been viable options instead.
“The MTA is planning to buy and use 200 new diesel buses to deal with a crisis that was caused by climate change,” Espinal said in a statement. “The MTA said today that they plan to start their electric bus pilot program in the next few weeks. With over a year and a half until the shutdown, that is plenty of time to gather data from their pilot program and use electric buses during the shutdown. We need a shorter pilot and bigger commitments.”
Oscar-nominated director and Sierra Club Foundation board member Darren Aronofsky described the reliance on diesel buses “depressing,” saying in a statement that “Hurricane Sandy, which damaged our beloved L train, was a product of human dependence on fossil fuels. Isn’t it bitterly ironic that we are resorting to diesel, the same poison that caused this problem in the first place?”
State Senator Martin Dilan said the closure will be disruptive but the plan the MTA announced was the result of public input. “Yes, it will be an inconvenience,” he said in an emailed statement. “But what they have proposed to date has all come by way of public input, and will address ridership issues that extend beyond the L.”